Citizens United

Sounds like a wonderful thing, doesn’t it? It’s created more divisions among people than can be counted. What is it?  A PAC formed to produce propaganda, which became a Free Speech lawsuit upheld by a Supreme Court decision in 2010 and made way for “Dark Money”, or anonymous campaign contributions and effectively unlimited corporate donations.

SUMMARY OF CITIZENS UNITED V. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION March 2, 2010 2010-R-0124

Court decision opens floodgates for corporate cash Politico 01/21/2010
Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right” by Jane Mayer  Presents the Issues and History of the Koch Brothers
December 12, 2018 “The U.S. Senate on Wednesday narrowly approved a resolution to overthrow a new Treasury Department policy that no longer requires some 501(c) tax-exempt nonprofits — including politically active 501(c)(4) “dark money” groups — to disclose donor names and addresses in tax returns submitted to the IRS.” Open Secrets

Wikipedia: “The Political Action Committee (PAC) Citizens United was founded in 1988 by Floyd Brown, a longtime Washington political consultant, with major funding from the Koch family (industrialists who own “the second largest privately owned company in the United States”). The group promotes corporate interests, socially conservative causes and candidates who advance their mission.

Citizens United President and Bannon’s propaganda producer David Bossie, along with Catholic, Lenin-loving Steve Bannon.  Lawrence Kadish is a wealthy real estate investor/founder of Chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition, whose Victory Film Group pushes Tweets that work with Breitbart New’s Anti-Muslim stories. Funded by the Koch Brothers and the Mercers.

FRIENDS: Kellyanne Conway, Newt Gingrich, Michael Reagan, nationally syndicated radio show host and chairman of Citizens United’s Faith and Family Project. The Mercers funded Citizens United in later years.

FOES: Obama, Clinton, John McCain, NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

A Closer Look at Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon from Wall Street on Parade: “Three of the men associated with Citizens United, the right-wing organization that took the legal case to the U.S. Supreme Court that ushered in today’s unprecedented era of unlimited corporate money in U.S. elections, took key posts in the Donald Trump campaign beginning this past summer.

One of the men, Stephen K. Bannon, has been named by President-elect Trump to be his Senior Counselor and Chief Strategist in the White House. While Bannon is widely cited for his executive role at Breitbart News prior to joining the Trump campaign, he is also the long-tenured, right-wing filmmaker for the Citizens United organization. A number of the films made by Bannon list Lawrence Kadish as Executive Producer and Victory Film Group as an affiliated entity involved in the documentaries.

When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in the Citizens United Case in 2010, David N. Bossie, then President of Citizens United (who also joined the Trump campaign this year) had this to say about Lawrence Kadish:

“First and foremost, I would like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Kadish who have been incredibly generous from the very first day of this process. We would never have been able to reach the Supreme Court without their support. I also need to thank the thousands of donors who exercised their right to free speech to support Citizens United and this defense of the First Amendment.”

What the Citizens United decision effectively did was to drown out the voice of millions of average Americans while hedge fund titans and Wall Street billionaires can now individually contribute over $3 million, $5 million, $7 million and more to Super PACs supporting pro-corporate candidates.

Kadish is a wealthy real estate investor and founding Chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition. He has prominently backed a series of neoconservative pro-Israel groups. Kadish’s full-throttle support for Israel and his involvement in numerous Bannon films for Citizens United, suggest that the heavily distributed rumors of Bannon being anti-Semitic are peculiar charges at best.

The Victory Film Group that is associated with the Bannon/Kadish movies has a Twitter page that plants the seeds of distrust of Muslims and appears to be a form of co-branding with Breitbart News, frequently promoting news stories on the Breitbart web site. One reTweet reads: “Judge Who Ended Interrogation Of Boston Bomber Has Ties To Muslim Brotherhood.” Another reTweet states: “57 Million New Immigrants to Enter America.”

 

Positions and advocacy

Citizens United is known for its support of conservatives in politics. The group produced a television advertisement that reveals several legislative actions taken by John McCain, which aired on Fox News Channel.[5]

On October 2, 2006, in reaction to revelations of a cover-up of inappropriate communications between Republican Congressman Mark Foley and United States House of Representatives Page, Citizens United president David Bossie called on Dennis Hastert to resign over his role in covering up the scandal.[6]

The group sued New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman over Schneiderman’s demand that it disclose all its donors. Citizens United lost the case.[7]

Citizens United campaigned against Michael Moore‘s 2004 film Fahrenheit 9/11, advocating for government limits on how much advertising the film received.[8] It simultaneously made advertisements attacking the film,[9] and produced a film called Celsius 41.11, meant to counter Moore’s film.[10]

Citizens United’s best known campaign centered around a documentary film it produced that was highly critical of Hillary Clinton.[11] It has also produced and screened advertisements attacking other Democrats, including Bill Clinton,[8] John Kerry,[12] and Al Gore.[11] In the 1988 US presidential election, Citizens United ran an ad that used Willie Horton to attack Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis. The ad was described as racist by commentators such as Mother Jones.[11]

The group has produced a film criticizing the United Nations.[10]

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission 558 U.S. 310 (2010) is a landmark U.S. constitutional law and corporate law case dealing with regulation of campaign spending by organizations. The United States Supreme Court held (5–4) on January 21, 2010 that freedom of speech prohibits government from restricting independent political expenditures by nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporations, labor unions and other associations.[2][3]

In the case, the conservative non-profit organization Citizens United wanted to air a film critical of Hillary Clinton and to advertise the film during television broadcasts shortly before the 2008 Democratic primary election in which Clinton was running for U.S. President. This would violate a federal statute prohibiting certain electioneering communications near an election. The court found the provisions of the law that prohibited corporations and unions from making such electioneering communications to conflict with the U.S. Constitution.

However, the court upheld requirements for public disclosure by sponsors of advertisements. The case did not affect the federal ban on direct contributions from corporations or unions to candidate campaigns or political parties.

The decision was highly controversial when announced and remains a subject of much discussion today.[4]

Citizens United and the Trump Administration

In 2016 the Donald Trump presidential campaign enlisted Citizens United president David Bossie as deputy campaign manager.[13] During the campaign, Bossie made regular television appearances on behalf of the Trump campaign.[14] Bossie is a close friend and longtime acquaintance of Trump administration officials Stephen Bannon and Kellyanne Conway,[15] having introduced Bannon to Trump in 2011.[16]

Citizens United Productions

Citizens United Productions, headed by president David Bossie, has released 25 feature-length documentaries. The following is a list of films produced by Citizens United Productions.

Trump Tenants

Trump Tower 725 Fifth Avenue

Paul Manafort, Strategic Consultant in Ukraine, Trump’s Campaign manager, Consultant to Turkey

“The Trump Organization said the building was refinanced for $100 million in August 2012, allowing Trump to take a cash distribution of over $73 million. Trump also has the leasehold at the Niketown building at 6 East 57th Street..which abuts Trump tower” The Real Deal

Bayrock, the Trump Tower development company being investigated for money laundering with Felix Sater as Managing Director and  developer of Trump Soho.

“FBI agents subpoenaed Trump in 1980 to ask about his dealing with John Cody, a Teamsters official described by law enforcement as a very close associate of the Gambino crime family…But a female friend of Cody’s, a woman with no job who attributed her lavish lifestyle to the kindness of friends, bought three Trump Tower apartments right beneath the triplex where Donald lived with his wife Ivana. Cody stayed there on occasion and invested $500,000 in the units. Trump, Barrett reported, helped the woman get a $3 million mortgage without filling out a loan application or showing financials.” Politico

Joseph Weichselbaum, an embezzler who ran Trump’s personal helicopter service and ferried his most valued clientele. Weichselbaum, who in 1979 had been caught embezzling and had to repay the stolen money, pleaded guilty to two felonies. Donald Trump vouched for Weichselbaum before his sentencing, writing that the drug trafficker is “a credit to the community” who was “conscientious, forthright, and diligent.” And while Weichselbaum’s confederates got as many as 20 years, Weichselbaum himself got only three, serving 18 months before he was released from the urban prison that the Bureau of Prisons maintains in New York City. In seeking early release, Weichselbaum said Trump had a job waiting for him. Weichselbaum then moved into Trump Tower, his girlfriend having recently bought two adjoining apartments there for $2.4 million. The cash purchase left no public record of whether any money actually changed hands or, if it did, where it came from. I asked Trump at the time for documents relating to the sale; he did not respond.” Politico

Trump World Tower

Kellyanne Conway (Bloomberg)

Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney (Bloomberg)

Behind Trump’s Russia Romance, There’s a Tower Full of Oligarchs Bloomberg  “At Trump World Tower, [Sam] Kislin provided a mortgage to Vasily Salygin, a future official of the Ukrainian Party of Regions linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin, to buy an 83rd-floor apartment. Salygin’s time in office overlapped with Paul Manafort’s tenure as an adviser to the party. The push to sell units in Trump World Tower to Russians expanded in 2002, when Sotheby’s International Realty teamed up with Kirsanova Realty, a Russian company. One reception at Moscow’s swank Hotel Baltschug Kempinski pitched the tower alongside Trump’s West Side condos and his building on Columbus Circle.

Eduard Nektalov, an Uzbekistan-born diamond dealer, purchased a 79th-floor unit directly below [Kellyanne] Conway’s for $1.6 million in July 2003. He was being investigated by federal agents for a money-laundering scheme, which involved smelting gold to make it appear like everyday objects that were then hauled to drug cartels in Colombia. Nektalov sold his unit a month after he bought it for a $500,000 profit. Less than a year later, Nektalov, rumored to have been cooperating with authorities, was gunned down on Manhattan’s Sixth Avenue.”Bloomberg

Sales agent Stotts helped rent out apartments owned by those who invested in World Tower. Her very first job was filling [Michael] Cohen’s apartment after he moved to 502 Park Ave., another Trump building. Three months after the New York Post reported that Cohen and his Ukrainian in-laws had bought units in World Tower, Trump hired him.”Bloomberg

Trump 502 Park Avenue, New York

“Trump does still own 23 apartments at Trump Park Avenue, which he rents for rates as high as $100,000 per month, and 19 units at Trump Parc.”The Real Deal

Michael Cohen

Angela Chen “has ties to important members of the Chinese ruling elite and to an organization considered a front group for Chinese military intelligence. Chen, who also goes by the names Xiao Yan Chen and Chen Yu, purchased the four-bedroom condo in the Trump Park Avenue building in New York City on February 21 (2017 for $15.8 million). As Mother Jones first reported, Chen runs a business consulting firm, Global Alliance Associates, which specializes in linking US businesses seeking deals in China with the country’s top power brokers. “As counselors in consummating the right relationships—quite simply—we provide access,” Chen’s firm boasts on its website. But Chen has another job: She chairs the US arm of a nonprofit called the China Arts Foundation, which was founded in 2006 and has links with Chinese elites and the country’s military intelligence service. The China Arts Foundation was created by Deng Rong, the youngest daughter of Deng Xiaoping, the iconic revolutionary figure and Chinese leader.” Mother Jones

“It all started in 1994, when Trump was facing foreclosure on the Riverside South residential high-rises he’d developed on Manhattan’s far West Side. He sold a majority interest in the buildings to a consortium of Hong Kong investors, who then made a deal to swap the properties with Extell Development and the Carlyle Group in exchange for 1290 Sixth Avenue and 555 California Street” The Real Deal

“New York Residential Property with Trump Name, The majority are co-ops and condos that have long since sold out.: Trump Palace on East 69th Street, Trump Parc at 106 Central Park South, Trump Parc East at 100 Central Park South, Trump Plaza on 61st Street and Trump International Hotel & Tower at 1 Central Park West”The Real Deal

Trump Soho, New York-Now The Dominick Hotel 

The Trump SoHo Hotel Has a New Name Fortune By HALLIE DETRICK December 21, 2017 “As of midnight on Thursday, the business now operates as The Dominick Hotel. The property will be run by an affiliate of CIM Group, which has owned the hotel since 2014. The hotel-cum-condominium building was seemingly doomed from the start, hitting the market just as the Great Recession settled in; dogged by bankruptcy, rumored criminal activity and even russia meddling among investors; and only able to sell one-third of its units by the time CIM Group bought it in a foreclosure auction. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office even began building a case against Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. for misrepresenting the success of the building to potential buyers. But don’t shed a tear for the Trump family, there are still plenty of buildings in New York that bear the family name.”

Trump Palace 200 E 69th St, New York, NY 10021

Igor Zorin, who owned three apartments in Trump Palace: $1,57 million, $2,32 million and $2,22 million, is another high-level Russian government official holding a series of strategically important positions related to propaganda.A deputy head of the Federal Communications Agency at the time of his Miami real estate operations, Zorin previously served as the director of the Main Center for Special Communications, a federal state unitary enterprise that acted as a courier service in charge of the delivery of secret dispatches, narcotic drugs, weapons and cash. In 2009, Zorin left this position due to a scandal: he was accused of the theft of nineteen million rubles. In 2010, Zorin was awarded the Medal of the Order “For Services to the Fatherland of the II Degree” by the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation “On awarding state awards of the Russian Federation” №650 dated May 27, 2010 “for the work achievement and many years of conscientious work.” The awards were presented by the head of the ministry Igor Shchegolev.” Zarina Zabrisky

Trump Parc

Trump owns 19 units The Real Deal

Trump International Hotel & Tower, Ft. Lauderdale

“In 2011, for instance, buyers at three separate Trump-branded properties, including the Trump International Hotel and Tower Fort Lauderdale, sued the mogul for allegedly misleading them into believing he was the developer and later pulling his name from the projects once they went belly-up. The Trump Organizations denies those claims. Some of those lawsuits, however, are still ongoing.Trump Soho, NY.”The Real Deal

“At projects such as the Trump Soho hotel/condominium at 246 Spring Street (developed by a partnership between the Bayrock Group and New York City developer Tamir Sapir) Trump is paid for the use of his name, but does not invest any of his own capital. Trump sometimes manages these projects, as he did in the case of Trump Soho, and always takes a licensing fee of $5 to $10 million, according to news reports. In some cases, he also takes a portion of potential future sales at the building.” The Real Deal

Sunny Isles Beach, FL

“Simultaneous with when the [Trump World] tower was going up, developer Gil Dezer and his father, Michael, were building a Trump-backed condo project in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla. “Russians love the Trump brand,” he says, adding that Russians and Russian Americans bought some 200 of 2,000 units in Trump buildings he built. They flooded into Trump projects from 2001 to 2007, helping Trump weather the real estate collapse, he says.” Bloomberg

San Francisco 1290 Sixth Avenue and 555 California

“Trump acquired the last two significant pieces of his commercial real estate holdings, 1290 Sixth Avenue and San Francisco’s 555 California Street, in an unusual way: through a property swap.”The Real Deal

40 Wall Street, NY

A gorgeous green, copper-topped vintage skyscraper in the heart of Wall Street.

Inside Trump’s Most Valuable Tower: Felons, Dictators and Girl Scouts Bloomberg   June 22, 2016

“Trump has a $160 million mortgage attached to the property.” The Real Deal

“They want that Wall Street address,” Donald Trump Jr., who’s in charge of leasing for the Trump Organization, which manages the building, told Commercial Property Executive in 2010. “We’re basically catty-corner from the stock market.”A cheap way to get a 40 Wall St. address is to grab space on the 28th floor, which is broken up into small offices. The firms listed in the lobby directory for that floor include Your Trading Room, a foreign-exchange operation ordered shut by an Australian court in 2012; Asian AIM Incubator Co., which Malaysian regulators put on a list of possible scams; Stilas International Law, whose founder was banned from practicing law in Virginia; and Ero Capital Corp., run by a man convicted of credit-card fraud.Even one of the four Cushman & Wakefield brokers who handle leasing for the skyscraper is a felon. Jeffrey Lichtenberg admitted accepting a bribe in 1999 after an investigation of bid-rigging in the construction business. He declined to comment.The tower also houses a Girl Scouts office and an elementary school with its own entrance.

Eleven new tenants were cited in that interview. Since then, the heads of four of them have been charged with fraud.

No U.S. address has been home to more of the unregistered brokerages that investors complain about, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s current public alert list….Trump took it over in 1995 in what may be the best deal of his career. No single property in his portfolio is more valuable than 40 Wall St…prosecutors have filed criminal charges against at least 29 people connected to 12 alleged scams tied to the building. Nine other firms have faced serious regulatory claims. Authorities prevailed in most but not all of the cases. Many were brought against principals, executives and other employees, not the firms themselves. Some are still pending. Here are the allegations, as well as descriptions of other firms in the tower that trade stocks and arrange loans….The tower was built to be the tallest in the world. It lost out, was foreclosed on and for a while was in the secret control of Filipino despots (hiding money for Marcos)….By 1993, the building was a “vertical ghost town” whose windows were dark while the rest of the Financial District glowed, the Associated Press reported. Kinson Properties, an arm of a Hong Kong-based footwear and real estate company, acquired it that year. Trump pounced when Kinson had trouble turning the building around, he wrote. He said he paid $1 million for the right to lease the building through 2059. A deal with lenders saved him from ruin. A few weeks before Trump signed the lease for 40 Wall St., friends threw him a lunch to celebrate his rebound, praising his comeback and even joking about a possible career in politics.Today, in addition to housing legitimate lawyers, architects and nonprofits, it offers a cheap way to grab a Wall Street address. The building’s average annual rent per square foot is $36, mortgage filings show, about $20 cheaper than the area’s average asking price and less than half of Midtown’s rates. At one point in 2010, according to regulators, brokers on the 34th floor were allegedly helping the financier on the 38th with a penny-stock scam; a brokerage on the 17th floor was involved in an unrelated fraud; and a bond-trading firm on the 42nd floor was bribing a Venezuelan official to win business. Trump Mortgage, on the 25th floor, was launched at the height of the housing bubble and closed in 2007. Trump wrote in his 2008 book “Trump Never Give Up” that tenants at 40 Wall St. are “many of the top-notch businesses in the world.”

Viceroy Capital Funding, Convicted: Viceroy, which arranges loans to small businesses, was accused in a lawsuit brought by a borrower of charging a 299 percent annualized interest rate. The case was settled out of court. Jonathan Braun, who runs the business according to a person with knowledge of the matter, is awaiting sentencing for running a marijuana-smuggling ring from his parents’ Staten Island house.

DirectView Holdings, Convicted: CEO Roger Ralston was sentenced to five months in a halfway house in 2001 for bribing government employees to buy video-conferencing equipment.

Wolf Hedge, Convicted: Mark Malik, 34, pretended to have died from a heart attack when investors tried to withdraw money from his fake hedge fund, according to the SEC. He’s currently serving 5-15 years for swindling investors out of more than $800,000.

EJS Capital Management, Convicted: Brokers cold-called investors, pitching a currency-trading strategy, then spent almost all the money they sent in, according to a December civil court ruling. One of the operators, Alex Ekdeshman, 43, is serving a seven-year sentence after pleading guilty to another foreign-exchange fraud last year. (2015)

Barclay Metals, Convicted: The CFTC barred Sean Stropp from the commodities industry for five years in 2013 for this alleged precious-metals scam, which used a 40 Wall St. address. New York prosecutors also charged him that year with fraud. He was convicted and served almost two years in prison.

Rosabianca & Associates, Convicted: Real estate lawyer Luigi Rosabianca catered to foreign clients who sometimes paid with suitcases full of cash, he told New York magazine in 2014. “Real estate is a wonderful way to cleanse money,” he said. A year later, he was disbarred and charged with stealing $4.4 million from six clients, whose victims allegedly include a woman suffering from schizophrenia. Rosabianca pleaded guilty to grand larceny and will be sentenced this month to four to 12 years.

Spyker Consulting, Convicted:  Spyker principal Luis Ferreira was on supervised release from prison for a telemarketing scam when the firm leased space in the building around 2009. He was arrested in 2010 for violating his parole with the new scheme. He fled rather than return to jail, and is now on the FBI’s white-collar most-wanted list.

Essex & York, Convicted: The heads of this brokerage firm and six employees were accused in 2006 of running a $13 million pump-and-dump scheme. They allegedly cold-called investors and convinced them to invest in a temp agency, then sold their own shares when the stock rose. Seven pleaded guilty and one died before his case was resolved.

First Merger Capital, Convicted: The heads of this defunct brokerage took a $350,000 payment from a Chinese kitchen-appliance company and pushed its stock to investors, according to regulators. One of the co-heads filed an appeal this year after the SEC sided with Finra against the two men. Their partner Ronen Zakai, 45, spent most of last year in prison after being convicted of stealing the $705,000 he raised to invest in the Facebook IPO.

Evergreen International Spot Trading, Convicted: The firm’s currency-trading scam came to light when customers asked about their money after the Sept. 11 attacks. Prosecutors called one of the four executives convicted of cheating investors “the Michael Jordan of investment fraud” and said another faked his suicide after wiring money to Azerbaijan.

Direct Access Partners, Convicted: This bond-trading firm went bust after a bribery scheme surfaced in 2013. Prosecutors said executives conspired to make payments to a Venezuelan state bank official. Former CEO Benito Chinea is serving a four-year prison sentence, and four other employees also pleaded guilty to criminal charges.

The David Firm, Convicted: Earl David, a lawyer, was sentenced to prison in 2013 after using phony employment claims in what officials called one of the largest immigration frauds in U.S. history.

Stilas International Law, Sanctioned:  Matthew Bennett Greene was banned from practicing law in Virginia in 2009 after two clients claimed they paid for services he didn’t deliver. In 2013, Connecticut’s banking commissioner fined him for violating securities law related to investments in a B movie that promised investors 1,000 percent returns.

Aegis Capital, Sanctioned: The brokerage was fined $950,000 by Finra last year for helping a financier unload billions of unregistered shares of penny stocks. The firm didn’t admit or deny wrongdoing.

John Carris Investments, Sanctioned:  George Carris, who owned the firm, was expelled last year by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority for selling shares of his brokerage without disclosing it was short of capital and for manipulating a penny stock. Regulators also alleged he spent company money on tattoos, liquor and motorcycles.

Banc de Binary, Sanctioned: This Cyprus-based firm operated an unlicensed binary-options brokerage in the U.S., soliciting investors with YouTube videos and spam e-mails to bet on whether stocks would rise or fall, according to the SEC, which sued in 2013. The firm and affiliates agreed to pay $11 million this year to settle regulators’ claims without admitting or denying the allegations.

Your Trading Room, Sanctioned: This currency-trading firm advertised that it taught secrets that “will change your life.” An Australian court ordered it liquidated in 2012 after a report that it was run by someone who had been banned by the country’s securities regulator.

GunnAllen Financial, Sanctioned: This Florida-based brokerage closed in 2010 after Finra said it didn’t have sufficient capital. The firm was overwhelmed by legal costs from some brokers’ involvement in two Ponzi schemes. “You cannot let the inmates run the asylum, and that’s where the firm failed,” its former general counsel was quoted as saying at the time.

Trump University, Settlement Approved:  CNN on March 31, 2017  New York’s attorney general is suing the unlicensed school for fraud. Students who signed up for real estate seminars were told they would be taught by experts hand-picked by Trump but were instructed instead by neophytes and bankrupt investors

New York Global Group, Facing Accusations: Benjamin Wey helped Chinese companies raise tens of millions of dollars in the U.S. before he was arrested last year and accused of securities fraud. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called him a “master of manipulation.” Wey has pleaded not guilty. He said in a court filing last month that his business was legitimate and the case against him is based on an illegal FBI search of 40 Wall St.

Felix Investments, Facing Accusations: Frank Mazzola, whose office was marked only by an 8.5-by-11-inch piece of paper, tried to raise money from investors by saying a fund he set up to buy Facebook shares had been approved by the social-networking company, according to a 2012 SEC lawsuit. After settling that case for $500,000 in 2014, Mazzola was sued by the agency in March for his ties to another alleged fraud. He said in court filings that he’s fighting the lawsuit.

Saddle River Advisors, Facing Accusations: John Bivona was sued by the SEC in March for fraud related to pre-IPO tech companies,a ponzi-like scheme. Bivona allegedly funneled investor money to relatives including his nephew, Frank Mazzola, also on the 17th floor. The SEC says the family used the money to pay the mortgage on a Jersey Shore vacation home. Both men denied wrongdoing in court filings. Bivona’s lawyer, Jahan Pierre Raissi, didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.

Patriarch Partners, Facing Accusations: Private equity manager Lynn Tilton, who was once in talks to star in a reality show called “Diva of Distressed,” had an office in the building for years. The SEC accused her last year of defrauding investors in three collateralized-loan-obligation funds, a case that’s still pending. A countersuit she filed against the agency was thrown out on appeal.

Forex Trading, Exonerated: The Commodity Futures Trading Commission accused the head of this business, Ross Erskine, of fraud in 2004 and said he had also set up Goros LLC as “a classic boiler room.” Erskine successfully argued that his currency-trading program wasn’t subject to the agency’s regulation. Judge Boyko found evidence of fraud but none that those in question were futures transactions.

A.B. Watley Group, Exonerated:  Day traders at this firm allegedly bribed Merrill Lynch and Citigroup brokers to allow them to listen in on the squawk box audio feed where brokers discussed clients’ trades. A jury found six participants guilty in 2009, but the convictions were reversed in 2012 because prosecutors withheld evidence.” Bloomberg

Trump International Hotel & Tower, Dubai

Does not own but licensed his name.

Ezra Cohen-Watnick

Former White House National Security Council

Ezra’s Wife, Rebecca Miller, has worked for Ketchum PR “trying to make Russia look better”Schoenblog  

Senior director Ezra Cohen-Watnick out at National Security Council

“A White House official said ezra cohen-watnick, who was hired during the brief tenure of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, “has left the National Security Council [NSC].”

Cohen-Watnick’s departure is the latest in a string of exits from the National Security Council under H.R. McMaster, who has reportedly sought to purge Flynn appointees.

Another Flynn hire, retired Army intelligence officer Derek Harvey, was ousted from the NSC last week. He had been working as a senior Middle East adviser.

Cohen-Watnick’s removal is the second significant personnel change at the White House since Retired Gen. John Kelly took over as chief of staff.

A few hours after Kelly was sworn in on Monday, the White House announced the departure of Anthony Scaramucci as communications director.” The Hill


He’s a 30-year-old Jewish, Anti-Muslim, Anti-Iran, Neocon Frank Gaffney fan /intern, trained spy and recruiter, Russian advocate via his Putin PR agent wife, and disliked within the DIA for being a “leaker”. Ret. Gen. Michael T. Flynn brought Ezra Cohen-Watnick to the White House. Flynn was disliked in the DIA, and fired. Flynn and his son Michael Flynn Jr. promoted anti-Clinton conspiracy theories, Benghazi, Pizzagate, Podesta and led the “Lock Her Up!” chants.

Flynn’s replacement after failing to disclose conversations with Sergey Kislyak, H.R. McMaster, tried to fire him first thing, but his appeal to Kushner and Bannon influenced Trump and forced McMaster to work with him –NY Times. This has people asking why, “with apparently only a single, allegedly trouble-filled, junior-level tour of duty with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in Afghanistan on his résumé, managed to secure one of the most consequential jobs in the White House: coordinating all of the U.S. intelligence community’s operations with the Oval Office and Congress. In less than a year, Cohen-Watnick had been raised from the equivalent rank of an army captain to a three-star general.” Newsweek  April 13, 2017  

When McMaster replaced Flynn, he tried to fire Ezra, but Kushner and Bannon persuaded Trump to reinstate himNY Times

Ezra Cohen-Watnick: Inside the rise of Trump’s invisible man in the White House  “White House National Security Council official at the center of a bizarre backdoor maneuver to provide House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes with top-secret documents on government surveillance. Cohen-Watnick reportedly retrieved the documents from a classified CIA terminal in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House and gave them to Nunes, a California Republican who had been a member of Trump’s transition team. They were intended to prove that former President Barack Obama was “wire tapping” Trump during the 2016 campaign. The documents did no such thing, other members of the panel concluded after studying them. What they actually showed is that U.S. intelligence agencies did have Trump’s associates on their radar—but only because they were tracking Russian agents.” Newsweek  April 13, 2017   


Russiagate Diversion

2 White House Officials Helped Give Nunes Intelligence Reports  NY Times  March 30, 2017

“A pair of White House officials helped provide Representative Devin Nunes of California, a Republican and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, with the intelligence reports that showed that President Trump and his associates were incidentally swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies.

The revelation on Thursday that White House officials disclosed the reports, which Mr. Nunes then discussed with Mr. Trump, is likely to fuel criticism that the intelligence chairman has been too eager to do the biddingof the Trump administration while his committee is supposed to be conducting an independent investigation of Russia’s meddling in the presidential election.

The officials who detailed the newly disclosed White House role said that this month, shortly after Mr. Trump claimed on Twitter that he was wiretapped during the campaign on the orders of President Barack Obama, Mr. Cohen-Watnick began reviewing highly classified reports detailing the intercepted communications of foreign officials.

There were conflicting accounts of what prompted Mr. Cohen-Watnick to dig into the intelligence. One official with direct knowledge of the events said Mr. Cohen-Watnick began combing through intelligence reports this month in an effort to find evidence that would justify Mr. Trump’s Twitter posts about wiretapping.

But another person who was briefed on the events said Mr. Cohen-Watnick came upon the information as he was reviewing how widely intelligence reports on intercepts were shared within the American spy agencies. He then alerted the N.S.C. general counsel, but the official said Mr. Cohen-Watnick was not the person who showed the reports to Mr. Nunes.

That person and a third official said it was then Mr. Ellis who allowed Mr. Nunes to view the material.”NY Times


“Ezra Cohen-Watnick’s unlikely journey from Chevy Chase’s liberal cocoon to backroom shenanigans in the Trump White House was less a straight shot than a dotted line. It may well have begun with Frank Gaffney, a former Ronald Reagan administration official who has emerged as a leading conspiracy theorist and believes that Muslim militants have infiltrated the U.S. government and even the Republican Party. At Bethesda–Chevy Chase High, Cohen-Watnick was close to Gaffney’s daughter. As the years went by, he gravitated to Gaffney associates, who eventually took him into the White House…In 2007, he helped organize a campus “Terrorism Awareness Week” (originally called “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week”) in concert with David Horowitz, a close Gaffney ally whose crusade against “liberal elites” on campus has been supported by top Trump aides Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon. At some point, a close family friend recalls, asking for anonymity in exchange for talking about personal matters, Gaffney offered the budding young hawk internships at his D.C. think tank, the Center for Security Policy. (Gaffney tells Newsweek in a brief telephone interview that he barely recalls Cohen-Watnick from as a high schooler and has had no contact with him since.) …In 2012, he was accepted into a training program with the Defense Clandestine Service, the undercover overseas spying arm of the DIA. It was there that he met a mutual friend of Gaffney, General Michael Flynn…

Cohen-Watnick’s DIA career did not go well, except in one regard: his bond with Flynn.

In 2013, the DIA assigned Cohen-Watnick to “the Farm,” the CIA training facility outside Williamsburg, Virginia, to learn the rudiments of recruiting and managing foreign spies, according to two intelligence sources. During his time there, his reputation among his classmates “was poor,” says a former CIA employee. “He was not a team player and would also ‘leak’ denigrating information about his fellow trainees…(Didn’t want to go to the Middle East, but)…Two sources tell Newsweek he was eventually assigned to Afghanistan, with the rank of GS-12, equivalent to a captain in the army…Flynn was already creating turmoil at the DIA with his impulsive management style and fervid embrace of conspiracy theories, such as his conviction that Iran was behind the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya. “Flynn facts,” his aides snickered, according to a profile in The New Yorker. Years earlier, he had co-authored a widely publicized paper excoriating the conduct of U.S. intelligence operations in Afghanistan, and he was particularly critical of the CIA for its support of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s notoriously corrupt brother Ahmed Wali Karzai

In 2014, Obama fired Flynn, and since then administration officials have dumped on him in the press. But the surprise election of Trump in November 2016 gave Flynn a chance for redemption—and revenge. With his rising prominence in the Trump campaign, Flynn’s adversaries recycled stories about his DIA ouster, but now there were also questions about Kremlin-financed trips to Moscow and ties to Turkish lobbyists. And Flynn was swimming in ever deeper conspiracy waters, now with activists who alleged that the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooter did not act alone, and that Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta was involved in a pedophile ring run beneath a Washington, D.C., family restaurant. Cohen-Watnick joined him in the so-called “Pizzagate” fray, tweeting about “Podesta’s obsession with the occult.” In another tweet, he referenced “the disgusting and potentially criminal behavior of the Clinton crime syndicate.”

In January, Cohen-Watnick swept into office with Flynn and other associates from Gaffney’s circle, including Bannon, Conway and Sebastian Gorka, another anti-Muslim hard-liner with ties to a Hungarian Nazi party. Meanwhile, Cohen-Watnick was getting married to a woman who, like Flynn and several other Trump aides, had ties to Russia. Rebecca Miller, four years younger than Cohen-Watnick, had worked on the Russian account in the D.C. office of Ketchum, the global powerhouse lobbying and public relations firm, according to her mother, Victoria Fraser, head of Washington University’s Department of Medicine in St. Louis. During a 2014 event at the State Historical Society of Missouri, Fraser said her daughter’s “big challenges right now are, Ketchum is responsible for providing PR and marketing to try to make Russia look better, which is particularly difficult when they’re invading other countries and when Putin is somewhat out of control.” Ketchum took a public relations blow when ProPublica reported that it had “placed pro-Russia op-eds in American publications by businesspeople and others without disclosing the role of the Russian government.” The following year, it drew flak for placing an op-ed purporting to be written by Russian President Vladimir Putin in The New York Times arguing that Syrian rebels, not President Bashar al-Assad, were responsible for chemical attacks on civilians. According to a Ketchum spokesperson, Miller’s work on the Russia account ended in September 2012. The company severed its ties with the Russian Federation in March 2015.

Cohen-Watnick and his wife have been reluctant to acknowledge anything about their professional lives or their history together. On November 11, 2016, the Ohr Kodesh Congregation, a conservative synagogue in Chevy Chase, held a kiddush, or small social ceremony, in honor of their “upcoming marriage.”…

Cohen-Watnick’s principal credentials seem to be ideological. “He’s a 30-year-old version of Michael Flynn, from an affection for the Russians to hatred of Iran,” a senior former intelligence official who has worked with him asserted. And right from the start, he wore his enmity for the CIA like a badge of honor, the official says.

“There’s no question that during the transition that he was airing his antipathy to the CIA,” the senior former intelligence official who worked with Cohen-Watnick says. “I got the impression he had an ax to grind, and this was an opportunity to demonstrate who was in charge.” He also “was very clear that he was entitled…, that he had access…and a voice in policy meetings.

“He made it very clear,” the former official adds, “that he was speaking on behalf of Flynn.” Adding to his value, says a former high-ranking Defense Department intelligence official: “His parents knew Jared Kushner,” the Trump son-in-law and confidante who was emerging as a major force in the administration. “Flynn saw that as extremely valuable.”

Flynn would soon be gone from the White House, sunk by his undisclosed conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. But his departure failed to end Cohen-Watnick’s tenure. When Flynn’s successor as national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, tried to get rid of him, Cohen-Watnick went straight to Bannon and Kushner, who in turn persuaded Trump to tell McMaster to back off, according to reports.

Since Flynn’s departure, Cohen-Watnick has moved to tame the CIA by taking away its primacy in covert action operations, handing some to the Pentagon, and pulling the decisions on who does what and when inside the NSC. “He was looking to get the military into the space where CIA operated,” says a former intelligence official who worked with Cohen-Watnick during the transition. And taking the fight to Iran—“tightening the pressure points,” as this person puts it—is high on his agenda.

All of which portends trouble, former national security officials say, pointing to calamities that befell previous administrations that politicized the intelligence process. The George W. Bush White House put pressure on the CIA to report that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And it found ideological bedmates in the Pentagon to produce WMD reports to help gin up the case—false, as it turned out—to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Decades earlier, an attempt by officials in the Reagan White House to get around congressionally prohibited aid to anti-communist Contra guerrillas fighting to overthrow the leftist Nicaraguan government ended in disaster.” Newsweek  April 13, 2017    Additionally, there are no public records of their marriage.

“Ezra interned at his think tank…Frank Gaffney was in the Reagan Administration and promoted the Star Wars Program, has worked for and closely associated with the Neocon Project For The New American Century, all of whose founders had prominent roles in the George W. Bush administration and were the architects of the 9/11 Middle East Imperialist spread of Democracy with Zionist ideology.” …More about Frank Gaffney in the Washington Report’s Neocon Superhawk Frank Gaffney Earns His Wings In Port Flap, September 1, 2009

THE BUSH-ERA NEOCONS

Erik Prince

Erik Prince

Notorious Mercinary” Erik Prince founded Blackwater Security and made headlines during the Iraq war with his company’s abuses and “conviction of killing Iraqi citizens, including children, in the notorious 2007 Nisour Square gun battle.” Bloomberg He is brother to Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, the their father, Edgar Prince’s auto parts manufacturing The Prince Corporation sold in 1996 to Johnson Controls for $1.35 billion. They grew up in Holland, MI, and their father “was a major contributor to the Family Research Council, whose mission is to “advance faith, family and freedom in public policy and the culture from a Christian worldview”.[4]  Critics argue that the organization advocates against LGBT rights, abortion, divorce, embryonic stem-cell research, and pornography.[5][6]” Prince  which joined Trump’s campaign as a major financial backer in August 2016.

He’s under investigation for money laundering and involvement with Chinese intelligence in a Lybian deal with current corporation FSB, which supplies African and conflict-zone aviation, evacuation and paramilitary support. China is heavily invested in Africa for its mining and natural resources. Prince sought to secretly rebuild his private CIA and special operations enterprise by setting up foreign shell companies and offering paramilitary services. He is currently or planning to train the People’s Liberation Army using former US Special Ops trainers, on behalf of the Chinese government in Africa, while Bannon and Trump say the US is heading towards a trade or real war with China.

THE TESTIMONY OF ERIK PRINCE ON NOVEMBER 30, 2017, BEFORE THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE

January 11, 2016, The Seychelles Meeting, arranged by the UAE Crown Prince. Afterwards, Erik Prince met with Kirill Dmitriev, per the Testimony.  Note: Prince was invited to testify by Kush Patel, major force behind the “Nunes Memo” The Atlantic.  Patel and Presley went to London in search of Christopher Steele, and in early November before the Prince testimony, Patel circulated an internal memo “urging Nunes to hold top officials at the Justice Department and the FBI in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over documents related to the Obama administration’s alleged use of the dossier to surveil Trump associates during the transition period, one of the sources told me. That memo was first reported by Fox News in November.” The Atlantic

PODCAST: Privatizing the War in Afghanistan  Recommended Reading:

New York Times: Trump Aides Recruited Businessmen to Devise Options for Afghanistan — “President Trump’s advisers recruited two businessmen who profited from military contracting to devise alternatives to the Pentagon’s plan to send thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan, reflecting the Trump administration’s struggle to define its strategy for dealing with a war now 16 years old.”

The Atlantic: The ‘Blackwater 2.0’ Plan for Afghanistan — “Here’s a crazy idea floating around Washington these days, outlandish even by today’s outlandish standards: The United States should hire a mercenary army to “fix” Afghanistan, a country where we’ve been at war since 2001, spending billions along the way. The big idea here is that they could extricate U.S. soldiers from this quagmire, and somehow solve it.”

Wall Street Journal: The MacArthur Model for Afghanistan — “Afghanistan is an expensive disaster for America. The Pentagon has already consumed $828 billion on the war, and taxpayers will be liable for trillions more in veterans’ health-care costs for decades to come. More than 2,000 American soldiers have died there, with more than 20,000 wounded in action. For all that effort, Afghanistan is failing. The terrorist cohort consistently gains control of more territory, including key economic arteries. It’s time for President Trump to fix our approach to Afghanistan in five ways.”

FYI: Fellow Mercer associate Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, Assistant to the President Christopher Liddell, and Sebastian Gorka, Former Breitbart writer and current Deputy Assistant to Trump and National Security Aide, formed an additional advisory group to potentially supersede the NSC called the Strategic Initiatives Group in January 2017. Reed Cordish also joined the SIG. Per reports, Robert Mercer has the largest private arsenal in the United States. Steve Bannon and other devotees of “The Fourth Turning”, want a huge war as a cleansing process, after which an idealized, structured society emerges (See his film “Generation Zero” on the Steve Bannon page).

ERIK PRINCE IN THE HOT SEAT

Blackwater’s Founder Is Under Investigation for Money Laundering, Ties to Chinese Intel, and Brokering Mercenary Services The Intercept

“He’s a rogue chairman,” said one of Prince’s close associates, who has monitored his attempts to sell mercenary forces in Africa. That source, who has extensive knowledge of Prince’s activities and travel schedule, said that Prince was operating a “secret skunkworks program” while parading around war and crisis zones as FSG’s founder and chairman. “Erik wants to be a real, no-shit mercenary,” said the source. “He’s off the rails exposing many U.S. citizens to criminal liabilities. Erik hides in the shadows … and uses [FSG] for legitimacy….“Erik is always pressing the limits as to what is possible,” said the close associate of Prince’s. In 2010, Prince sold most of his equity in the companies that fell under the Blackwater umbrella. Claiming that left-wing activists, Democratic politicians, and lawsuits had destroyed his companies, he left the United States and became a resident of Abu Dhabi. The remnant of his network was renamed Academi LLC. Federal prosecutors eventually attempted to prosecute Prince’s former companies, culminating in a 2012 deferred prosecution agreement to settle a lengthy list of U.S. legal and regulatory violations committed from 2005 through 2008 when Prince was in charge, including ITAR violations.” ITAR is International Traffic in Arms Regulations, issued by the State Department’s (currently under Rex Tillerson) Directorate of Defense Trade Controls.” The Intercept

Blackwater Founder Said to Have Advised Trump Team  Bloomberg By Keri Geiger and Michael Riley
April 18, 2017 “During the Iraq war, Blackwater landed more than $1 billion worth of government contracts to provide personal protection for visiting officials and assist with military operations and, according to Prince’s memoir, carry out covert operations for the Central Intelligence Agency.  Click here for more on Erik Prince’s work in Iraq”  Bloomberg

NOTORIOUS MERCENARY ERIK PRINCE IS ADVISING TRUMP FROM THE SHADOWS  The Intercept  January 17, 2017  “Prince has long fantasized that he is the rightful heir to the legacy of “Wild Bill” Donovan and his Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA. After 9/11, Prince worked with the CIA on a secret assassination program, in addition to offering former SEALs and other retired special operators to the State Department and other agencies for personal security…The Trump presidency could result in Prince working for both Beijing and the White House. The Blackwater founder has also endorsed some of Trump’s overtures to Russia, saying: “Think about it: If FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, can deal with Stalin to defeat German fascism in World War II, certainly the United States of America could work with Putin to defeat Islamic fascism. We don’t have to agree with the Russians on everything, or even on a lot, but we can at least agree that crushing ISIS in the Middle East is a very good idea.” Prince described Democrats as “anti-Catholic, anti-Evangelical,” saying the DNC hacks and leaks revealed “the disregard, the disdain they have for the average American voter and citizen.” Prince has a close relationship with Breitbart News and Steve Bannon, Trump’s senior counselor and chief strategist. Prince has appeared frequently — and almost exclusively — on Breitbart Radio. Prince’s sister, Betsy DeVos, is Trump’s nominee for education secretary and she has all but vowed to embark on a crusade to push a privatization and religious agenda in education that mirrors her brother’s in military and CIA affairs. Prince has long been a contributor to the campaign of fellow Christian warrior Mike Pence, and he contributed $100,000 to the pro-Trump Super PAC Make America Number 1. Prince’s mother, Elsa, pitched in another $50,000. That organization, run by Rebekah Mercer, daughter of billionaire hedge funder Robert Mercer, was one of the strongest bankrollers of Trump’s campaign. According to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, in December Prince attended the annual “Villains and Heroes” costume ball hosted by Mercer. Dowd wrote that Palantir founder Peter Thiel showed her “a picture on his phone of him posing with Erik Prince, who founded the private military company Blackwater, and Mr. Trump — who had no costume — but joke[d] that it was ‘N.S.F.I.’ (Not Safe for the Internet).” The Intercept

Betsy DeVos’s Brother, The Founder of Blackwater, Is Setting Up A Private Army For China, Sources Say

The controversial Blackwater founder says he is setting up two bases in China, but his company says “this does not involve armed personnel.Aram Roston “In December (2016), Frontier Services Group, of which Prince is chairman, issued a press release that outlined plans to open “a forward operating base in China’s Yunnan province” and another in the troubled Xinjiang region, home to the mostly Muslim Uighur minority. When Frontier later told its board it was shifting into security services — largely to assist China’s international development policy — the development disgusted two American executives at Prince’s Hong Kong company. Gregg Smith, the former CEO of Frontier, said he was ready to quit last March if Erik Prince was not removed from the company. Then, at a board meeting late that month, he said a company official made clear that Frontier would be providing security services in support of Chinese government objectives. “That was the final straw,” he told BuzzFeed News. Retired US Admiral William Fallon, a Frontier board member, was at the same board meeting. He resigned too when he heard that the firm was providing security services. “That wasn’t what I signed up for,” he said in an interview. Former executives said that Frontier’s “forward operating bases” will be training former People’s Liberation Army soldiers to work as discreet non-uniformed soldiers for hire. The former associate, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Prince “is making Frontier Services a full-on private military company.” President Donald Trump has talked tough about China. To be sure, he recently reaffirmed that the United States will formally recognize only mainland China and not Taiwan, a crucial point for Beijing. But Trump has installed a sharply anti-China critic as the head of his National Trade Council. Before winning the presidency, Trump called China an “enemy.” Trump adviser Stephen Bannon, who interviewed Prince on Breitbart frequently, predicted last year that the US will be at war with China “in the South China Sea in five to 10 years.” And even if no hot war breaks out, many experts believe Trump is gearing up for a trade war with the country that manufactures much of the world’s goods (including some Trump brand products.) During the campaign, Prince donated $100,000 to the Trump Victory Committee, which supported both Trump’s election bid and the Republican Party. Jeremy Scahill, a journalist who has long covered Prince, recently wrote that the businessman is advising the Trump Administration. Just four days before the election, Prince gave an interview to Breitbart radio, part of the media empire that Bannon used to run, in which Prince pushed an unfounded theory that the NYPD had been about to announce arrest warrants in the Clinton investigation but was blocked by the Justice Department, and that Hillary Clinton had been to a “sex island” with a convicted pedophile “at least six times.” Prince’s bizarre claims were prominently displayed on Breitbart’s website leading up to the election and were widely distributed on right wing websites.” Buzzfeed

New Super-PAC Launches for Donors Who Won’t Back Trump But Loathe Clinton

Supported by former Ted Cruz backer Robert Mercer, a new player enters the fray. Bloomberg By Joshua Green and Zachary Mider 

June 21, 2016: The Robert Mercer-led Super-Pac “Make America Number One” aka “Defeat Crooked Hillary PAC” with Kellyanne Conway, president of Keep the Promise PAC, led by long-time Clinton hater David Bossie, president of Citizens United, made headlines appealing to Republican donors who don’t like Trump after their candidate Cruz dropped out. Bloomberg

INVOLVEMENT WITH TRUMP TRANSITION TEAM

“Blackwater Founder said to Have Advised Trump Team” Bloomberg “In one informal discussion in late November, Prince spoke openly with two members of Trump’s transition team on a train bound from New York to Washington. He boarded the same Acela as Kellyanne Conway and they sat together. Joining the conversation at one point was Kevin Harrington, a longtime associate of Trump adviser Peter Thiel who is now on the National Security Council. They discussed, in broad terms, major changes the incoming administration envisioned for the intelligence community, as recounted by a person on the train who overheard their conversation. A longtime critic of government defense and security policies, Prince advocated a restructuring of security agencies as well as a thorough rethink of costly defense programs, even if it meant canceling existing major contracts in favor of smaller ones, said a person familiar with the matter. Prince is no longer talking to those in the administration, said the person close to him, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were intended to remain private. His influence waned after Flynn was ousted as National Security Adviser in February over concerns about his own disclosures and conversations with the Russian ambassador. And Prince has no relationship with Flynn’s successor, General H. R. McMaster.”

April 3, 2017, The Washington Post “Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel”   “Prince is best known as the founder of Blackwater, a security firm that became a symbol of U.S. abuses in Iraq after a series of incidents, including one in 2007 in which the company’s guards were accused — and later criminally convicted — of killing civilians in a crowded Iraqi square. Prince sold the firm, which was subsequently re-branded, but has continued building a private paramilitary empire with contracts across the Middle East and Asia. He now heads a Hong Kong-based company known as the Frontier Services Group……The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladi­mir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.  The meeting took place around Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, officials said. Though the full agenda remains unclear, the UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, a Trump administration objective that would be likely to require major concessions to Moscow on U.S. sanctions. Though Prince had no formal role with the Trump campaign or transition team, he presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis involved in setting up his meeting with the Putin confidant, according to the officials, who did not identify the Russian. Prince was an avid supporter of Trump. After the Republican convention, he contributed $250,000 to Trump’s campaign, the national party and a pro-Trump super PAC led by GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, records show. He has ties to people in Trump’s circle, including Stephen K. Bannon, now serving as the president’s chief strategist and senior counselor. Prince’s sister Betsy DeVos serves as education secretary in the Trump administration. And Prince was seen in the Trump transition offices in New York in December.  ” Washington Post Continued

Erik Prince in the Hot Seat  March 24, 2016 “Erik Prince, founder of the now-defunct mercenary firm Blackwater and current chairman of Frontier Services Group, is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies for attempting to broker military services to foreign governments and possible money laundering, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the case. What began as an investigation into Prince’s attempts to sell defense services in Libya and other countries in Africa has widened to a probe of allegations that Prince received assistance from Chinese intelligence to set up an account for his Libya operations through the Bank of China. The Justice Department, which declined to comment for this article, is also seeking to uncover the precise nature of Prince’s relationship with Chinese intelligence. Despite the provenance of FSG’s funding and Prince’s history of bad publicity, Prince was able to recruit an impressive line-up of former U.S. military and intelligence officers to run the company. Key to Prince’s ability to retain such personnel, given FSG’s ties to China, has been the firm’s strictly circumscribed mission, which does not include military-related services. FSG is a publicly traded aviation and logistics firm specializing in shipping in Africa and elsewhere. The company also conducts high-risk evacuations from conflict zones. Prince has described his work with FSG as being “on the side of peace and economic development” and helping Chinese businesses to work safely in Africa. Behind the back of corporate leadership at FSG, Prince was living a double life. Working with a small cadre of loyalists — including a former South African commando, a former Australian air force pilot, and a lawyer with dual citizenship in the U.S. and Israel — Prince sought to secretly rebuild his private CIA and special operations enterprise by setting up foreign shell companies and offering paramilitary services, according to documents reviewed by The Intercept and interviews with several people familiar with Prince’s business proposals. Several of the proposals for private security services in African nations examined by The Intercept contained metadata in the digital files showing Prince and his inner circle editing and revising various drafts. Since 2014, Prince has traveled to at least half a dozen countries to offer various versions of a private military force, secretly meeting with a string of African officials. Among the countries where Prince pitched a plan to deploy paramilitary assets is Libya, which is currently subject to an array of U.S. and United Nations financial and defense restrictions…The Libyan proposal, reviewed by The Intercept, was code-named Operation Lima. It offered the Libyans an array of military equipment and services — including weaponized vehicles, helicopters, boats, and surveillance airplanes — to help stabilize eastern Libya. The ground force, according to a person involved with the plan, would consist of a troop of former Australian special operations commandos...By May 2015, Prince had rebranded himself and claimed a legitimate public reputation as FSG’s chairman. Without the approval of FSG’s management, he returned to Libya offering a freshly repackaged proposal. Prince’s private force would operate in Libya for the stated purpose of stopping the flow of refugees to Europe…One person involved in Prince’s plan said the anti-migration force was seen as a vehicle for Prince to build a “backdoor” for so-called kinetic, or lethal, operations in Libya — a form of mercenary mission-creep. “During the day, you do interdiction of migrants — not kinetic,” said the person involved in the plan. “But those routes are used by weapons smugglers and drug traffickers at night. Insurgents too. Erik’s guys can then be offered to the Libyans to help with their other problems. That’s how you get kinetic.” By then, the U.S. government was already investigating Prince for possible weapons deals in Africa, according to the former senior U.S. intelligence official and the former intelligence official briefed on the matter. In the course of the surveillance operation for that investigation, U.S. intercepts revealed Prince appearing to discuss efforts to open bank accounts in China to help his Libyan associates. “Money laundering for Libyan officials using a Chinese bank — that is the issue that pushed it over the edge” for the Justice Department, said the second former intelligence official. The U.S. spies monitoring Prince soon discovered that he had traveled to the Chinese-controlled peninsula of Macau in an effort to open a bank account, according to two people familiar with the investigation.Later, Prince traveled to Beijing, where he met with Chinese agents from the Ministry of State Security. In January (2016), Prince returned to Macau and opened an account at the Bank of China, according to several sources, including the second former intelligence official and the source with close connections to Macau’s banking community. “It was not a personal account,” said the former U.S. intelligence official briefed on the investigation. “He was doing it for the purpose of what is considered now — in the investigation — money laundering on behalf of the Libyans.” The Intercept